Carnival Cruise Line found its way to Australia in late 2012 when Carnival Spirit became the line’s first ship to be based in local waters year-round. It was not long after that when the company had developed a loyal following of Aussie travellers that it expanded its global rewards program – Very Important Fun Person – to its new flock of Aussie fans.

Accessible through Carnival’s website, the VIFP program is free to join by filling out the online form. Don’t worry about being redirected to the line’s US website – this is just a formality as the program is managed from the Head Office in Florida. The American website is very similar and takes guests through the sign-up process quickly and easily.

Unlike some frequent cruiser programs, the benefits don’t begin from your second cruise onwards but are available as soon as you’re issued a member number – usually instantly. If you haven’t cruised with Carnival before, you’re entered into the VIFP program on the ‘Blue’ level, which gives you access to member-only offers and an e-newsletter notifying you about upcoming cruise sales. Sometimes these sales are significant cuts to regular prices and can apply to cruises departing year-round, so it can pay to be able to cruise at short notice.

There are five levels in the VIFP program (Blue, Red, Gold, Platinum and Diamond) with one point awarded for each day you spend on a Carnival ship anywhere in the world the line sails.

The first promotion comes from your second sailing when you reach the Red level. Straight away, the fact you’ve returned to Carnival for your second cruise indicates you enjoyed your first one and the line has won you over. However, the Red level doesn’t offer a great deal more than Blue other than a complimentary one-litre bottle of water in your stateroom, but the motivation is there to try and reach the Gold Level after 25 days spent onboard in total.

If you’ve already cruised with Carnival but are yet to join, you’re missing out on potentially a wide range of benefits and special offers, but all is not lost. Once you join, you can find all your previous cruises using your date of birth, and this system works extremely well. If there are any extra that should be added, you can email the line and they will try and find you on the passenger list from that particular cruise before adding the points retrospectively for you.

Once you reach the Gold level, that’s when you’ll start to notice some benefits you can

You can earn VIFP points on any of Carnival Cruise Line’s fleet of 24 ships around the world (becoming 25 from May when Carnival Vista joins the fleet).

Some of the perks available to Diamond and Platinum cruisers include priority check-in and boarding, collectable pins for each year you join a cruise, priority spa reservations, free credits for kids in the arcade, front-of-line access to tenders if needed on shore excursions, free bags of laundry (limited for Platinum members), guaranteed specialty dining tables and even a special invitation from the Captain to a VIFP group gathering on each sailing.

Here’s a handy hint for when you’re approaching the required number of days to graduate to the next level. If you’re due to move up a tier mid-way through your next cruise, you’ll receive the higher level of benefits for the whole cruise. For example, if you’re three days away from reaching the Diamond tier and you’re on an eight-day cruise, you’ll receive this level even for the two days you’re still on Gold.

So whether you prefer Carnival SpiritCarnival Legend or another of the line’s ships, each day you spend at sea is taking you one step closer to greater rewards and more cool benefits.